John Neville, Marquess of Montagu and Earl of Northumberland

John Neville was son of the Earl.of Salisbury and younger brother of the Earl of Warwick. An active participant in clashes of the Percy-Neville feud, he became one of Edward IV‘s most effective enforcers in the north east. His actions saw him elevated to the barony as Lord Montagu, then created Earl of Northumberland before being created Marquess Montagu in a move that led to him joining his brother in waging war against Edward IV. John Neville was killed fighting in the Battle of Barnet and was survived by his wife, Isabel.

23rd May 1463

John Neville is summoned to Parliament at Lord Montague.

John Neville was the third son of the Earl of Salisbury and younger brother of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. He rose in prominence in the 1450s.

John Neville knighted

John and his brother Thomas were knighted at the Tower of London alongside Edmund and Jasper Tudor. That he was dubbed alongside the King’s own half-brothers shows the importance of the Neville family.

Percy-Neville Feud

Based in the Neville’s estates in the North, John soon began to make a name for himself. In the family feud with the Percy family, the Earls of Northumberland, he played a pivotal role. In 1453 he was one of the Neville commanders who ambushed Thomas Percy, Lord Egremont on Heworth Moor near York and fought what is sometimes called the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

First Battle of St. Albans

The rivalry in the north soon became part of a broader national conflict. When the two sides fought at St. Alban’s in 1455, John Neville was in the centre of the fighting. His reward for fighting on the victorious Yorkist side was a half share of lands forfeited by Sir William Skipwith.

Captured after the Battle of Blore Heath

In 1457 he married Isabel Ingaldesthorpe, after which his military career continued. He fought alongside his father at Blore Heath. Though on the winning side, he was captured during the rout and imprisoned. He was attained whilst in gaol but released and reinstated to his estates following the Battle of Northampton.

John’s elevation to Marquess of Montagu resulted from his ongoing command in the north, coming after he took Neworth and Bamburgh Castles, but before his victory at Hedgely Moor.

Chester Castle, where John Neville was imprisoned for a year
Chester Castle. John Neville was held captive here for a year


27th May 1464

John Neville, Lord Montague was created Earl of Northumberland.

This promotes him in place of the Lancastrian supporting Percy family.

John Neville was the younger brother of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. In the North Eastern campaigns of 1462-4, he had played a significant role in combatting Lancastrian resistance and attacks by the Scots.

Hedgely Moor

It was he who had commanded the Yorkist forces at both the battles of Hedgely Moor and Hexham. These two battles paved the way for a truce with Scotland and the end of any effective Lancastrian resistance in the North East.

John Neville, Earl of Northumberland

As the Earl of Northumberland’s fatger had fought for the Lancastrians he was stripped of his title. It was duly granted to John Neville on 27th May 1464 to reward his loyalty and military successes.

John Neville, Marquess of Montagu

The creation of John as the Earl of Northumberland gave the Neville family administrative control over the North East, creating a large and powerful power base. For John, it was a natural progression. He had been elevated to the position of Marquess of Montagu the previous year. With the Earldom vacant, he was an obvious candidate to fill the position.

Battle of Barnet

However, when Henry Percy made his peace with King Edward, the title reverted to the traditional Percy landholders. Neville was allocated alternative titles and lands in the south but, feeling slighted, joined his brother fighting for the Lancastrians at the Battle of Barnet, where he died.

John Neville

From the original Dictionary of National Biography.

NEVILLE, JOHN, Marquis of Montagu and Earl of Northumberland (d. 1471), third son of Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury [q. v.], and Alice, daughter and heiress of Thomas de Montacute or Montagu, fourth earl of Salisbury [q. v.], was born between 1428 and 1435. His brothers, Richard Neville [q. v.], ‘the king-maker,’ and George Neville, archbishop of York [q. v.], are separately noticed.

John Neville knighted

At Christmas 1449 Neville was knighted by Henry VI at Greenwich, along with his elder brother Thomas and the king’s two half-brothers, Edmund and Jasper Tudor (Worcester, p. 770). He played a prominent part in 1453 in those armed conflicts between the Nevilles and the Percies in Yorkshire, which William Worcester (ib.) afterwards described as ‘initium maximorum dolorum in Anglia,’ the true beginning of the civil war.

Percy-Neville feud

He and Lord Egremont, third son of the Earl of Northumberland, were the leaders of the rival clans, and seem to have paid little attention to the orders sent down by the royal council commanding them to ‘disperse the gatherings of our subjects ready to go to the field, as by credible report we understand ye dispose fully to do as it were in “land of werre”’ (ib.; Ord. Privy Council, vi. 141, 161; see also under Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury). When the Duke of York a few months later became protector and made the Earl of Salisbury chancellor of England, he came down to the north in May 1454 and put an end to the disturbances for a time (Ramsay, Lancaster and York, ii. 177). But they broke out again in July 1457, after York had been ousted from the control of the government which he had gained by his victory at St. Albans. The two factions fought a battle at Castleton, near Guisbrough, in Cleveland, and the Nevilles won a complete victory, John Neville carrying off Lord Egremont and his brother Richard Percy to his father’s castle of Middleham in Wensleydale (Fabyan, p. 632; Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, p. 70; Chron. ed. Giles, p. 45).

Attempts at reconciliation

The Yorkists were strong enough to get the Percies mulcted in enormous damages to the Nevilles at the York assizes, and in default of payment Egremont was transferred to Newgate (Whethamstede, i. 303). But he soon effected his escape, and at the temporary reconciliation of parties in March 1458 the Nevilles agreed to forego the fines.

Blore Heath, John Neville captured

In the summer of 1459 John Neville and his elder brother Thomas accompanied their father when he marched southwards from Middleham with his Yorkshire retainers to join his eldest son Warwick and the Duke of York in the midlands. At the battle of Blore Heath, near Market Drayton (23 Sept.), where Salisbury routed the royal troops who sought to intercept him, Thomas and John Neville, with Sir Thomas Harington, pursued the flying Cheshiremen with such thoughtlessness that they were taken prisoners next morning by a son of Sir John Dawne who had not gone with his father to the battle, and they were conveyed to Chester Castle (Gregory, p. 204; Chron. ed. Davies, p. 80).

John Neville attainted to Yotkist axcendancy

After the dispersion of the Yorkists at Ludlow they were attainted, with the rest of their family, in the October parliament at Coventry, and did not obtain their release until the summer of 1460, when Warwick returned from Calais and turned the tables upon the Lancastrians at Northampton (Gregory; cf. Hall, p. 240; Rot. Parl. v. 349). King Henry being now in the hands of the Yorkists, and Neville’s younger brother, George Neville [q. v.], bishop of Exeter, made chancellor, his estates were restored to him in August by special grace, though his attainder was not removed until parliament met in October (ib. v. 374; Ord. Privy Council, vi. 306). He was raised to the peerage as Baron Montagu—a title also possessed by his father, and transmitted on his father’s death at Wakefield in December to Warwick—and made lord chamberlain of the household, an office which gave him a seat in the privy council (ib. pp. ccxxiv, 310; Worcester, p. 776).

Spared at St. Albans

Remaining in London with Warwick, Neville escaped the fate of his brother Thomas, who was slain with their father at Wakefield; and though at the second battle of St. Albans, on 7 Feb. 1461, he fell into the hands of the victorious Margaret, his life and that of Lord Berners, brother of the Archbishop of Canterbury, were spared, while Lord Bonvile and Sir Thomas Kyriel were executed (State Papers, Venetian, i. 370). Montagu had been closely attached to King Henry’s person, and was something of a trimmer in politics. He and Berners were carried by the Lancastrians to York, where they remained until the day after the battle of Towton (30 March), when the new king, Edward, entered the city and at their intercession pardoned the citizens (ib.; Paston Letters, ii. 5).

John Neville as Yorkist enforcer in the north

While Edward went south for his coronation, Montagu won his first military laurels (June) by raising the siege of Carlisle, which was besieged by a large force of Scots and Lancastrian refugees (ib. p. 13). In March 1462 he was rewarded with the Garter left vacant by the death of his father and with the forfeited estates of Viscount Beaumont in Norfolk and Nottinghamshire (Beltz, Memorials of the Order of the Garter; Dugdale, Baronage, i. 307). His title was confirmed by the new king. He was still kept employed in the north, where the Lancastrians were assisted by the Scots, and held several of the Northumbrian castles. While his brother Warwick sought by diplomacy to detach the Scots from Queen Margaret’s cause, Montagu captured (July) Naworth Castle, which was defended by Lord Dacres (Worcester, p. 779). Later in the year, when Margaret had brought reinforcements from France and Warwick was superintending from Warkworth the siege of the great coast fortresses of Northumberland, Montagu lay before Bamborough, which surrendered to him on Christmas eve (ib. p. 780; Paston Letters, ii. 121).

Hedgely Moor

Warwick having returned to London and thus allowed some of the castles to be recovered, Montagu was appointed warden of the east march against Scotland on 1 June 1463, and he and Warwick relieved Norham Castle, which was besieged by Queen Margaret and a Scottish force (Gregory, p. 220). In the following spring the Scots agreed to treat for a definitive peace; Montagu, with his brothers Warwick and George Neville, was appointed a commissioner for the purpose, and, as warden of the east march, went to the border to conduct the Scottish envoys to York, where the conference was to be held (ib. p. 224). The determination of the Lancastrians to prevent an understanding which would render their position in the north untenable gave Montagu an opportunity of adding to a military reputation which had begun to put Warwick’s somewhat in the shade. Narrowly escaping an ambush laid for him near Newcastle by Humphrey Neville [q. v.], a member of the older and Lancastrian branch of his house, Montagu found his road barred at Hedgeley Moor, between Alnwick and Wooler, on 25 April, by the Duke of Somerset and Sir Ralph Percy with a force estimated at five thousand men (ib.) Putting them to flight with the loss of Percy, he picked up the Scottish envoys at Norham and brought them safely to Newcastle. Hearing that Somerset had rallied his forces and brought King Henry down to the neighbourhood of Hexham, Montagu left Newcastle on 14 May and found the enemy encamped in a position described by Hall, writing under Henry VIII, as being on the south side of the Tyne, two or three miles from Hexham, in a meadow called the Linnels.

Rout, prisoners, executions

With the river on one side and in their rear, and high ground on the other flank, the Lancastrians were caught in a trap, and, after a sharp fight, driven over the stream into a wood, where most of them were taken prisoners (Hall). King Henry, who had been left at Bywell Castle lower down the river, effected his escape into Westmoreland; but Somerset and the other principal captives were executed, either on the spot or at Newcastle, Middleham, and York, in the course of the next ten days (Fabyan, p. 654; Gregory, p. 225). For this merciless proscription Montagu must be held responsible, though he may have been acting under orders, and the later executions took place in Edward’s presence.

John Neville created Earl of Northumberland

He had given the coup de grâce to Lancastrianism in its last English stronghold, and received his reward at York on Trinity Sunday (27 May) in a grant of the earldom of Northumberland and its estates, forfeited by Henry Percy (VII), who had been slain at Towton (Doyle, Official Baronage). He and Warwick reduced the Northumbrian castles in the course of the summer (Gregory, p. 227). But the ascendency of the Neville brothers was already seriously threatened by the king’s secret marriage with Elizabeth Wydeville. Northumberland, being kept pretty constantly employed in the north, did not come into such continual collision with the Wydevilles as his brothers, but one of the many marriages which Edward secured for his wife’s relations touched him personally. The heiress of the Duke of Exeter, who had been designed for his son George, was married, in October 1466, to Thomas Grey, the king’s stepson (Worcester, p. 786).

John Neville during his brothers uprising of 1469

To what extent Neville was engaged in the intrigues of Warwick and Clarence is not clear. He certainly did not lend any open countenance to the Neville rising in Yorkshire in the summer of 1469, which went under the name of Robin of Redesdale [q. v.], and his destruction of the force which Robert Hillyard or Robin of Holderness led to the gates of York and execution of its leader would no doubt confirm the confidence which Edward, who ‘loved him entirely,’ placed in him. On the other hand, the latter movement would appear to have been quite distinct from the other, the rebels having a grievance against the hospital of St. Leonard at York, and calling for the restoration of the earldom of Northumberland to the Percies (Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, p. 183). So far as is known, he made no special effort to prevent the southward march of Robin of Redesdale, which ended in the battle of Edgecote and the temporary detention of the king by Warwick. But he escaped or avoided being compromised in these latter events, and the king evidently thought that he was not fully committed to his brother’s policy.

John’s son married into the Royal Family

The betrothal of Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of Edward, as yet without a son, to Northumberland’s son George, who was forthwith (5 Jan. 1470) created Duke of Bedford, gave him an interest opposed to that of Clarence, the heir-presumptive, whom Warwick had married to his elder daughter (Rep. on Dignity of a Peer, v. 377).

The pardon of Henry Percy

But the release and pardon of Henry Percy (1449?–1487) [q. v.], whose earldom he held, perhaps made him uneasy; and, though he did not join Warwick and Clarence when the king drove them out of the country in March after the suppression of the Lincolnshire rebellion, he seems to have been compromised. He had brought no assistance to the king against the rebels, and Chastellain states (v. 500) that Edward only pardoned him on receiving the strongest assurances of repentance and future fidelity. He could not any longer be trusted with the safeguard of the royal interests in the north, and the earldom of Northumberland, with its great estates, was restored to Henry Percy, who also superseded him as warden of the east march (Rep. on Dignity of a Peer, v. 378; Doyle).

John Neville’s resentment of Edward IV

The empty title of Marquis of Montagu, ‘with a pye’s nest to maintain it,’ only increased his resentment, and when the news of Warwick’s landing reached the north in September, Montagu, who had assembled six thousand men at Pontefract, declared for king Henry and moved on Doncaster, where the king was lying (Warkworth, p. 10; Croyland Cont., p. 554; Chron. of White Rose, p. 29; Chastellain, v. 501; Wavrin, iii. 47, ed. Dupont). Montagu’s desertion drove Edward out of England, and, Henry VI being restored, he was reappointed warden of the east march (Doyle). But under a Lancastrian government he could not recover the earldom of Northumberland. Warwick, however, entrusted him with the defence of the north against the exiled Edward, and one of his last acts before leaving London after Edward’s landing was to have a grant made to his brother of the old Percy castle of Wressel on the Yorkshire Derwent, which Jacquetta, duchess of Luxemburg, the Duke of Bedford’s widow, had hitherto held as part of her dower (Fœdera, xi. 676; Doyle). But Montagu, who was lying at Pontefract, allowed Edward in March 1471 to land in Yorkshire, enter York, and march into the midlands without molestation (Arrivall of Edward IV, p. 6).

Double treason?

This looked very like a double treason, and was afterwards so regarded by some writers (Polydore Vergil, p. 136; Warkworth, p. 16). But the neutral position taken up by the Percies, who were very powerful in southern Yorkshire, may have so weakened Montagu that he hesitated to attack Edward’s small but compact force, and he was always inclined to seize an opportunity of letting events decide themselves without committing him (ib.) Stow adds that he was deceived by letters from Clarence, who had secretly gone over to his brother’s party, announcing that he was about to arrange a general settlement, and asking him in the meantime not to fight. But what authority he had for this statement does not appear.

John Neville joins his brother, death at Barnet

Montagu certainly joined Warwick at Coventry, and fought on his side at Barnet (14 April), where both were slain (Arrivall of Edward IV, pp. 14, 20). There are curiously discrepant accounts of his conduct in the battle. In one version he insists on Warwick’s fighting on foot so that he must win or fall, and himself dies fighting gallantly in ‘plain battle’ (Commines, i. 260; cf. Arrivall of Edward IV, p. 20). In another he is discovered putting on Edward’s livery and slain by one of Warwick’s men (Warkworth, p. 16). The former, though in part the official version put forth by Edward, perhaps deserves most credence. The bodies of the two brothers were carried to London, and, after being exposed ‘open and naked’ for two days at St. Paul’s to convince the people that they were really dead, were taken down to Berkshire and interred in the burial-place of their maternal ancestors at Bisham Abbey (Hall, p. 297). Montagu seems to have been a man of mediocre talents and hesitant temper, who was drawn rather reluctantly into treason by the stronger will of his brother and the family solidarity.

Marriage and children

He married, on 25 April, 1457 Isabel, daughter and coheiress of Sir Edmund Ingoldesthorpe of Borough Green, near Newmarket, by Joan, sister and eventually heiress of John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester (Paston Letters, i. 416; Rot. Parl. v. 387; cf. Doyle). By her he had two sons and five daughters (Swallow, De Nova Villa, p. 224): (1) George, created Duke of Bedford on 5 April 1470; he was degraded from this and all his other dignities by act of parliament in 1478, when he may have been just coming of age, on the ground that he had no ‘livelihood’ to support them, his father’s treason having frustrated the king’s intention of attaching estates to the titles (Rot. Parl. vi. 173). Sir James Ramsay (ii. 426) suggests that the Bedford title was now needed for Edward’s third son, George. George Neville died in 1483 without issue, and was buried in the church of Sheriff-Hutton, near York, a Neville castle and manor. The alabaster effigy, with a coronet, still remaining in the church, and often said to be young Bedford’s (Murray, Yorkshire, p. 157), is that of a mere child, perhaps the son of Richard of Gloucester, to whom Sheriff Hutton passed after Warwick’s death; and the shield bears a cross, not the Neville saltire. Montagu’s second son, John Neville, died in infancy (1460), and was buried at Sawston, Cambridgeshire.

Isabel Ingoldisthorpe
Isabel Ingoldisthorpe

The daughters were: (1) Anne, who married Sir William Stonor of Oxfordshire; (2) Elizabeth, married first to Thomas, lord Scrope of Masham (d. 1493), and secondly, before 1496, to Sir Henry Wentworth, who died in 1500 (she died in 1515); (3) Margaret, married first Thomas Horne, secondly Sir J. Mortimer, and thirdly Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk [q. v.], who divorced her; (4) Lucy, married first Sir Thomas Fitzwilliam, and secondly Sir Anthony Brown, her grandson by whom was created Viscount Montagu in 1554. The dignity is supposed to have become extinct on the death in 1797 of Mark Anthony Brown, the ninth viscount, who had entered a French monastery, but various claims have since been set up to it (Doyle; Nicholas, Historic Peerage, ed. Courthope); (5) Isabel, married first Sir William Huddlestone of Sawston, secondly William Smith of Elford, Staffordshire.

[Rotuli Parliamentorum; State Papers, Venetian Series, ed. Rawdon Browne; Rymer’s Fœdera, original edit.; Lords’ Report on the Dignity of a Peer; Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council, ed. Palgrave; William Worcester (ad pedem Stevenson’s Wars in France, vol. ii.) and Register of Whethamstede in Rolls Ser.; English Chronicle, 1377–1461, ed. Davies, Gregory’s Chronicle (see Eng. Hist. Rev. viii. 31, 565) in Collections of a London Citizen, ed. Gairdner, Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, ed. Gairdner, Warkworth’s Chronicle, the Rebellion in Lincolnshire, and the Arrivall of Edward IV, all published by the Camden Soc.; the Continuator of the Croyland Chronicle, ed. Fulman, 1684; Fabyan’s Chronicle, ed. 1811; Hall’s Chronicle, ed. 1809; Chron. of the White Rose, ed. 1845; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner; Wavrin, ed. Hardy (Rolls Ser.), and Dupont (Soc. de l’Hist. de France), Commines, ed. Dupont (Soc. de l’Hist. de France); George Chastellain, ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove, Brussels, 1863–6; Beaucourt’s Histoire de Charles VII; Pauli’s Geschichte Englands, vol. v.; Ramsay’s Lancaster and York; Lingard’s History; Dugdale’s Baronage; Doyle’s Official Baronage; Nicolas’s Historic Peerage, ed. Courthope; Swallow, De Nova Villa, Newcastle, 1885; Todd’s Sheriff Hutton, ed. 1824. Montagu figures largely in Lord Lytton’s novel, the Last of the Barons (1843), as a foil to Warwick.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 40
Neville, John (d.1471) by James Tait

John Neville, Lord Montagu

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